Lausche coal to natural gas conversion in the works
By CG Interim Managing Editor Austen Verrilli
Late last week during two meetings Ohio University’s board of trustees approved a “capital improvement plan” to address huge university maintenance backlogs including an approximated $91 million renovation to Lausche Heating Plant.
“The current plant is reaching the end of its useful life and does not have the capacity to handle the University’s growing infrastructure needs,”a press release detailing the trustee meeting at Ohio University’s Lancaster Campus read. “The University has made the decision move away from the use of coal and toward a more environmentally friendly energy source, both because of the institution’s commitment to sustainability and because of pending, more stringent EPA emissions regulations.”
Last year Ohio University officials promised the Sierra Club that they would either move away from coal or attempt to make the Lausche Heating Plant burn cleaner.
Steve McAdams of RMF Engineering Inc. spoke at the Lancaster trustee meeting according to the press release. He outlined a plan that will replace the coal heating units with natural gas combustion turbines.
Burning natural gas is more expensive and will raise fuel costs by $3.1 million, from a current cost of $2.8 million to $5.9 million annually. But the gas turbines will burn cleaner than coal and reduce carbon emissions by 89,000 tonnes according to the press release. The turbines will also generate electricity in-house. This should save the university an estimated $3 million per year by 2025, according to the Lancaster meeting press release.
A committee has been put in place to figure out funding sources for the project. “These include federal and state grants and incentives as well as possible public-private partnerships with government agencies, for-profit entities and third-party service providers,” the press release states.
A press release from the first of the two trustee meetings held in Athens last week states that the university will also fund $567.5 million of the total six year $997 million capital improvement plan “through the issuance of debt.”
The Lancaster meeting press release also highlighted university plan to hire a contractor to do “major energy conservation projects on campus that have a guaranteed 15-year payback.”